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Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Mazurek (Mazurka) for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 49/B90a (1879) [6’14]. Rondo in G minor for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 94/B181b (1893) [6’15]. Seven Interludes, B15 (1867) [23’20]. Silent Woods (Klid) for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 68 No. 5/B182b (1893) [6’05]. Polonaise in E flat, B100 (1879) [4’59]. Nocturne in B, Op. 40/B48 (1875) [4’37]. Suite in A, ‘American’, Op. 98b/B190 (1895) [16’34]. Five Prague Waltzes, B99 (1879) [8’40]. Polka in B flat, ‘Prazskym akademicum’ (‘For the Prague Students’), Op. 53A/1/B114 (1880) [1’58]
aAlexander Trotnianski (violin)
Russian Philharmonic Orchestra/Dmitry Yablonsky (bcello).
Rec. Studio No. 5, Radio House Moscow, on October 10th-12th, 2003. DDD
NAXOS 8.557352 [78’42]

A lovely disc of Dvořákiana, well chosen as a programme and generally well performed and recorded. The recording is perhaps a little harsh, as this source tends to be although apparently SACD incarnations have fared better in this respect. Dvořák requires a certain warmth and affection both in execution and in sound space, a requirement only partially met here.

The most famous works are ‘Silent Woods’, the Nocturne and the American Suite, although I suspect it is in the lesser-known items that this disc’s value lies.

The Mazurka (Mazurek) for violin and orchestra also exists in a violin and piano version; it is dedicated to Sarasate. A somewhat resonant acoustic unfortunately leads to some muddying of textures, yet there is much swagger to this account, plus the nostalgic parts are given due weight.

Interesting that Yablonsky directs the works for cello and orchestra. He has a light touch that is most appealing in the Rondo - some passages are gossamer-light. The perhaps more famous Silent Woods is similarly impressive, with real lyric breadth and restful aura. The recording is not 100% convincing however, putting Yablonsky a little bit too much in one’s face. A shame, as his tone is pleasing and the expression well judged.

Separating the two cello items in the disc running order is the Seven Interludes, a set that was new to me. Written in 1867, they exude the confidence and freshness of youth. The ‘risoluto’ indicator of the first seems to have been taken with a pinch of salt by Yablonsky, and indeed it becomes clear he finds it easier to bask in the Dvořákian sunshine of, say the third (‘Con molta espressione’, but note the wiry high violins) than in the more exciting movements. The finale should surely have more vim. Most interesting musically is the ‘Serenata’ with even the Andantino con moto tempo similarly implying calm. Here there is a slight feeling of disquiet that actually adds a layer of fascination to the experience.

The Polonaise is an eminently approachable work that would make a superb encore; the Nocturne in B is possibly the most famous composition on the disc. Alas here it sounds just like a studio run-through, with upper strings especially uncomfortable. The American Suite is given a polished performance though. The second movement proves the highpoint, with strings coping with the tricky lines well, and rustic clarinets providing adorable contrast. The fourth movement Andante contains moments of great delicacy.

The Five Prague Waltzes are an interesting diversion, given here in a suave and even sometimes glittery performance. The penultimate one in particular is simply great fun! The concluding Polka is funny, a sort of Dvořák/Brahms Hungarian/Czech Dance, gently appealing and surely tongue-in-cheek until its intentionally sudden and blatant ending.

Recommended, despite some shortcomings. A great way to explore some of the lesser-known byways of this great composer’s output.

Colin Clarke

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